It is a general believe in our society that high blood pressure is only a disease for elderly, perhaps, who have been battered by vicissitude. In fact, some people refer to it as an old man’s disease.
But a general practitioner, who is based in Lagos, Mr. Temitope James, told Daily Sun recently that people in their 20s or less can be visited with the ailment. He said:
“We have seen over five cases of hypertension today, but there was a 24-year-old young man that we screened who had a BP of 160/99, which is abnormal. Hypertension in a young adult might not be as common as we have with people above 40, more young people developing it these days.
“In the case of that 24-year-old that was detected during a free health screening, we have to follow him up to know the possible causes and to give him a comprehensive treatment. If there was no immediate response, he could be struck with stroke at any moment.”
He added that without treatment, high blood pressure, or often referred to as hypertension, can lead to grave health conditions, including heart failure, vision loss and kidney disease.
But he warned that: “The longer you have untreated hypertension, the more complications you get”, adding that early presentation for diagnosis makes treatment easy for the doctor and longer and normal life for the patient.
Other medical practitioners have warned that high blood pressure is more common in younger men, and should be taken just as serious as in their older counterparts. It’s called “the silent killer” because symptoms generally appear only after the disease has caused damage to vital organs.
Blood pressure is the amount of force that blood exerts on the walls of the arteries as it flows through them. When this pressure reaches high levels, it can lead to serious health problems.
The heart is a muscle that pumps blood around the body. It pumps blood with low oxygen levels toward the lungs, which replenish oxygen supplies.
The heart then pumps oxygen-rich blood around the body to supply the muscles and cells. This pumping action creates pressure.
Therefore, if a person has high blood pressure, it means that the walls of the arteries are constantly under too much force.
On how often anyone should go for a general health screening even without any symptom, Mr James said people should have a yearly full medical evaluation done. But he said the reason most people don’t carry out regular check-up was the fact that access to quality health care was nothing to write home about in Nigeria.
He believes that the future of Nigeria robust health care system lies in primary health care. He said that was the level where a lot of prevention takes place. But he stated that it was sad that cases that supposed to have been taken care of at the primary health centres were found at the tertiary health institutions.
He added that when the people are healthy it would increase the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country, and explained that there would be high productivity. The medic said:
“As far as we are practising our medicine on the basis of out-of-pocket payment, we are not going to get a lot of people going for routine medical check-up. And that is why it is always too late before people present in the hospital. Some sicknesses don’t come with symptoms.”
Also contributing on how young men ignore the reality of having hypertension, the spokesman for the American Society of Hypertension, Dr. Daniel Lackland, said:
“Young men are less likely than older men to believe that they have hypertension and less likely to go back to the doctor. Often these are patients whose blood pressure would respond to weight management and other lifestyle changes, but they are less likely to seek treatment.”
He added that younger men with high blood pressure typically have high diastolic pressure while older men have high systolic pressure. In his words:
“In young men, the diastolic pressure rises because the heart is pumping harder while in older men, the systolic pressure rises and stiffens arteries.
“Part of the problem with young men is increased body mass. Ten years ago we wouldn’t have seen hypertension in the teens and 20s, but now it’s increasing along with rising obesity rates. We’re seeing the increase in particular in African-American men, but it affects men of all races.”
Though it cannot be tied to a particular factor, age, physical inactivity, obesity and others can all increase the risk of high blood pressure.
It is possible to divide the causes of high blood pressure into two categories which include: Essential high blood pressure – no established cause; and secondary high blood pressure – caused by another health problem.
Even though essential high blood pressure has no identifiable cause, strong evidence links specific factors to the risk of developing this condition. The risk factors for essential and secondary high blood pressure include the following:
Age: The risk of high blood pressure increases as a person becomes older because the blood vessels become less flexible.
Family history: People who have close family members with hypertension have a significantly higher risk of developing it themselves.
Obesity and being overweight: People who are overweight or have obesity are more likely to develop high blood pressure.
Some aspects of sex: In general, high blood pressure is more common among adult men than adult women. However, after the age of 55 years, a woman’s relative risk of hypertension increases.
Physical inactivity: Lack of exercise and having a sedentary lifestyle raises the risk of hypertension.
Smoking: Tobacco intake causes the blood vessels to narrow, resulting in higher blood pressure. Smoking also reduces the blood’s oxygen content, so the heart pumps faster to compensate, causing an increase in blood pressure.
Alcohol intake: Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can dramatically raise blood pressure and increase the risk of heart failure, stroke, and irregular heartbeat.
Poor diet: Many healthcare professionals say that a diet high in fats and salt leads to a high risk of hypertension. However, most dieticians stress that the problem is the type of fat rather than the amount.
Plant sources of fats, such as avocados, nuts, olive oil, and omega oils, are healthful. Saturated fats and trans-fats, which are common in animal-sourced and processed foods, are bad for health.
High cholesterol: More than 50 per cent of all people with high blood pressure have high cholesterol. A diet that contains lots of unhealthy fats can cause cholesterol to build up in the arteries.
Mental stress: Stress can have a severe impact on blood pressure, especially when it is chronic. It can occur as a result of both socioeconomic and psychosocial factors. Excessive stress might also lead to actions that increase the risk of hypertension, such as consuming larger amounts of alcohol.
Diabetes: People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing hypertension. However, prescribed use of insulin and consistent blood sugar control can reduce the long-term risk of people with type 1 diabetes developing hypertension. People with type 2 diabetes are at risk of hypertension as a result of high blood sugar, as well as other factors, such as certain medications, underlying cardiovascular disease, and being overweight or having obesity.
Pregnancy: Pregnant women have a higher risk of developing hypertension than women of the same age who are not pregnant. Preeclampsia is a placental disorder that can increase blood pressure to dangerous levels.
Sleep apnoea: This sleep disorder, which causes people to stop breathing while asleep, might also lead to hypertension.
Understanding high blood pressure
The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure (JNC 7) guidelines categorize hypertension as follows: Normal as less than 120/80; elevated as120-129/ below 80 while hypertension is 130/80. But stage two hypertension is140/90.
According to the JNC 7, half the adult population is pre-hypertensive or hypertensive, and because blood pressure increases with age, most people will become hypertensive if they live long enough.
On treatment and when medications are indicated for younger men, Lakland said one question that easily comes up is what will be the long-term effect?
“We have had medications around since the 1970s, but with newer ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers), we don’t know. But the benefit of keeping blood pressure to goal is so great. Without treatment, a man at 30 could be facing end-stage renal disease, stroke, or heart attack,” he joined others to warn.
A recent study that was carried out in Greece has showed that men with high blood pressure were 2.5 times as likely as men with normal pressure to develop erectile dysfunction (ED).
Men with pre-hypertension also had a higher incidence of ED than did men with normal pressure. Dr. Michael Doumas, of the University of Athens in Greece, presented the study at the American Society of Hypertension 20th Annual Scientific Meeting and Exposition. In order to assess the link between hypertension and erectile dysfunction, researchers excluded men who had a history of diabetes, heart disease, renal failure, or liver and vascular disease, which are associated with ED.
How to lower high blood pressure at young age
One of the most effective ways to deal with the ailment is to get one’s blood pressure checked regularly. According to experts, even if it is less than 120/80, still check your pressure at least once per year. And definitely don’t let more than two years go by without getting it checked.
Interestingly, one may not always need to go see a doctor. Many drug stores have blood pressure machines that can be used for free. Take advantage of any free health screenings at work or in your community.
If your blood pressure is higher than 120/80, even on a single reading, take it seriously. And that’s true even if you are young.
Another way to regulate it is by making lifestyle changes now. You can lower the risk that your blood pressure will rise with age. And that means a lower chance of heart problems and stroke later on.
If you smoke, quitting is the top priority. Diet and exercise also work well to keep blood pressure in check. Strive to maintain a healthy weight.
Make vegetables and fruits half of every meal. Potatoes don’t count as a vegetable. The other half should contain healthy protein and whole-grain carbohydrates. Reduce salt intake by using a little less salt every day, and soon you will enjoy food just as much as before. Drink water instead of sugary beverages.
Stay physically active as much as you can all day. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. Aerobic physical activity such as brisk walking, at least 30 minutes per day most days of the week, can decrease systolic blood pressure by 4-9 points.
Moderation of alcohol consumption if you must drink. Men should limit alcohol to no more than two drinks per day. A standard drink is defined by the type of alcohol. For example, a standard drink, such as a 12-ounce bottle of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5-ounce shot of 80-proof distilled spirits, has between 11 and 14 grams of alcohol. Limiting the amount of alcohol to this quantity is expected to result in a reduction in systolic blood pressure by two to four points.
Learn to manage anger. Managing anger may be more important for younger men than older men in treating hypertension or high blood pressure, said Charles Spielberger, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
Spielberger developed the widely used STAXI (State Trait Anger Expression Inventory) to assess anger and has studied the role of anger in hypertension.
“Research shows it is people who are boiling inside but don’t show it who are more likely to develop hypertension.”
“Anger can also be a personality trait. Some people feel anger more often across a wider variety of situations. People who do this and hold it in, they’re the ones in danger of hypertension.”
He revealed that a good anger management program could help someone lower or normalize blood pressure by approaching it in a three-step process.
“First, learn to recognize the anger and the situations that cause it. A lot of people who feel anger frequently might not recognize it, especially low to moderate levels.”
Second, analyze the situation. If your supervisor frequently makes you and other employees angry, tell yourself ‘It is not me.’ This person is supercritical. I’ll listen to what he says, but I’m not going to blame myself for his bad disposition.
Third, reduce the anger. “Counting to 10 will distract you, or try muscle relaxation. If possible, avoid the situation.”